Monitors: If Two Are Better Than One
We’ve already seen that monitors are supposed to be positioned at a certain height relative to your head and eyes in order to reduce strain on your neck and back. But given the variance in desk and user heights, this can be hard to manage—especially if you have multiple displays. If you don’t have multiple displays, I’m only going to point you to this 2008 update of an old NEC/University of Utah study. More glass is better, period. As you’re about to see, I use three monitors on my main system (down from a peak of four), and the productivity gains this offers are immense. With 24" LCD monitors now breaking the $200 barrier and the ability to drive four DVI displays from two decent graphics cards (I use a Radeon HD 4550 and 4650) for under $100, it will take most information workers less than one month to recoup the investment cost of going ultra-wide.
If you’re going to go multi-monitor, get ergonomically correct about it. Invest in a high-quality stand to get those monitors off your desk. A lot of people know they should do this, but most don’t, perhaps because of concerns over cost or perhaps because of perceived complexity in the build process. I hope that the NEC study resolves the first worry. For the second, I’m going to show you the process. What you’re about to see took just over 30 minutes.
This is Ergotron’s LX Triple/Dual Display Lift Stand ($299). The unit accommodates up to three 21" displays or two LCDs of up to 30". The mounting bar has five inches of vertical motion and 20 degrees of tilt, so it’s very easy to conform to your needs once assembled. If you’ve ever put together a self-assembly desk or cabinet, this is a cakewalk in comparison. Ergotron’s instructions are easy to follow and there are relatively few parts. Above, you see the box unpacking and central column assembly.
With the column in place, now comes the crossbar. Most monitors use an industry-standard VESA mounting on their backs, and my three 19" displays (one decent Samsung and two dog-meat MAGs) all conform. Simply remove the monitor’s factory-installed stand and expose the mounting holes. Ergotron’s parts will mount to these.
Finish screwing on the mounting bracket to the back of the monitor. If your monitor hides its power and data ports behind a panel, as my Samsung does, it’ll be easier to remove the panel at this point. Next, slip the bracket onto the crossbar and tighten the bracket knob until the monitor is firmly clamped to the crossbar.
Repeat the previous steps for your remaining one or two monitors and clamp them to the crossbar. The LX stand includes a T-shaped key. Use this to raise or lower the crossbar to the desired height. At this point, the hard work is done. Just use the little retaining clips and perhaps a few zip ties to perform some cable management. If possible, I suggest using two strong, reasonably agile people to move a fully loaded LX stand.